First up, plastic perils from Environmental Health News:
Plastics chemical linked to changes in baby boys’ genitals
Boys exposed in the womb to high levels of a chemical found in vinyl products are born with slightly altered genital development, according to research published today.
The study of nearly 200 Swedish babies is the first to link the chemical di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP) to changes in the development of the human male reproductive tract.
Previous studies of baby boys in three countries found that a similar plastics chemical, DEHP, was associated with the same type of changes in their genitalia.
Less is known about the reproductive risks of DiNP, a chemical which scientists say may be replacing DEHP in many products such as vinyl toys, flooring and packaging. In mice, high levels block testosterone and alter testicular development.
“Our data suggest that this substitute phthalate may not be safer than the chemical it is replacing,” wrote the researchers, led by Carl-Gustaf Bornehag at Sweden’s Karlstad University, in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
From the Pump Handle, a needed challenge:
Lawsuits challenge EPA’s approval of new herbicide
Despite substantial public opposition and the “grave concerns” of about 50 members of Congress and significant unanswered questions about human and environmental health impacts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a new herbicide called Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered corn and soybeans in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. EPA, which says it has approved Enlist Duo “to manage the problem of resistant weeds” is now considering approving Enlist Duo for use in ten more states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.
Immediately following the EPA announcement, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed suit in the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to block the registration of the new weed killer. A week later, on October 22nd, a coalition of farmers and environmental organizations – the National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, Earthjustice, Pesticide Action Network North America, Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Biological Diversity – filed suit in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on behalf of their membership in the six Midwestern states where the herbicide would be used. They are also seeking to block the EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo. Both lawsuits contend that the EPA failed to adequately assess the herbicide’s impacts on human health and wildlife, including imperiled monarch butterflies.
Manufactured by Dow AgroSciences, Enlist Duo combines glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup, the most commonly used herbicide in the US – with what’s called a choline salt of 2,4-D – the country’s third most widely used herbicide. Enlist Duo would be used on corn and soybean seeds genetically engineered to withstand this herbicide combo. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved these seeds last month. The aim of Enlist Duo is to tackle weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate that is now used on about 94 percent of the corn and about 89 percent of the soybeans planted in the US. The new seeds have been engineered to resist 2,4-D as well as glyphosate. A DowAgro Sciences press release calls the EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo, “a true victory for farmers” now grappling with glyphosate-resistant weeds across tens of millions of acres of American farmland.
From Global Times, trading one problem for another in China:
Eco-concerns as city tackles mosquitoes in dengue fight
“Cherish lives, including those of mosquitoes,” Wu Mingliang, chief engineer of Guangzhou Huicheng Pest Control Company, told the Global Times.
With 20 years of experience in controlling mosquito populations, Wu has bemoaned the overuse of pesticides for an outbreak of dengue fever in South China’s Guangdong Province in September.
A total of 41,827 dengue cases were reported in Guangdong as of Wednesday, an increase of around 20 times over the previous year. More than 80 percent of all cases were detected in Guangzhou, the provincial capital.
This year’s outbreak is believed to be the worst in two decades, the Xinhua News Agency reported on October 6. Six deaths were reported in Guangdong.
Dengue, also referred to as “breakbone fever” for its characteristic symptoms of severe joint and muscle pain, is a mosquito-borne disease.
The Independent covers a real alien invasion:
Deadly fungus killing British newts after spread from east Asia
The international trade in pet newts and salamanders has spread a deadly skin fungus from east Asia to Europe, posing a further threat to the endangered great-crested newt of Britain, scientists said.
A previously unknown fungus called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans was first discovered last year and a survey of more than 5,000 amphibians across the world has revealed its global spread from its native Asia.
Scientists believe the pet trade has helped the fungus to spread from Thailand, Vietnam, China and Japan to Europe, where it has already caused the collapse of fire salamanders in the Netherlands.
From the Pacific Standard, inadvertent disclosure:
How Dark Money Got a Mining Company Everything It Wanted
- An accidentally released court filing reveals how one company secretly gave money to a non-profit that helped get favorable mining legislation passed
When billionaire Chris Cline’s company bought an option to mine a swath of northern Wisconsin in 2010, the company touted the project’s potential to bring up to 700 well-paid jobs to a hard-pressed part of the state.
But the Florida-based company wanted something in return for its estimated $1.5 billion investment—a change to Wisconsin law to speed up the iron mining permit process.
So, Cline officials courted state legislators and hired lobbyists. And, unbeknownst to Wisconsin voters and lawmakers, the company waged a more covert campaign, secretly funding a non-profit advocacy group that battered opponents of the legislation online and on the airwaves.
Fracking the air with Vice News:
Here’s What Fracking Is Doing To Air Quality
Dangerously high levels of known carcinogens around wells using the controversial technique of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, could pose serious health risks to nearby communities, according to a study published in Environmental Health.
“These aren’t just anecdotal stories about how people are being affected by this industry,” Ruth Breech, co-author of the report and program director at Global Community Monitoring (GCM), told Vice News. GCM trains people how to monitor environmental quality.
The study found that several chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide, formaldehyde, and benzene, frequently exceeded federally recommended levels. In some cases, hydrogen sulfide samples were 90-66,000 times higher than recommended safety levels, while formaldehyde was 30-240 higher and benzene, an EPA classified carcinogen, 35-770,000 times higher.
Exposure to benzene increases the risk of leukemia, along with dangerous respiratory problems. Hydrogen sulfide can cause short and long term neurological, upper respiratory, and blood-related symptoms and formaldehyde is known to cause cancer.
More fracking questions from InsideClimate News:
Pennsylvania Congressman Launches Frack Waste Investigation as Concern Rises
The move follows a report by ICN and the Center for Public Integrity that documented how and why toxic oil and gas waste is virtually unregulated.
In a reflection of growing national concern about the disposal of oil and gas waste, a Pennsylvania congressman launched an investigation Wednesday into the way his state regulates the discarding of the unwanted, often toxic material.
Rep. Matthew Cartwright, a first-term Democrat from eastern Pennsylvania, wants to know more about how the contaminated leftovers from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are regulated.
In an email exchange with InsideClimate News, Cartwright said “preliminary reports indicate there are big gaps in protections and oversight that the federal government might have to fill.”
On to Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with the Asahi Shimbun:
TEPCO to postpone nuclear fuel removal at Fukushima No. 1 reactor
A series of delays will push back by years the start of operations to remove spent and melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, sources said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the central government were expected to announce the new schedule at an Oct. 30 meeting of the team in charge of handling the decommissioning process and the radioactive water accumulating at the plant.
Under the original plan, TEPCO was to start removing spent fuel from the No. 1 reactor building in fiscal 2017 and begin lifting out the melted fuel as early as fiscal 2020.
Under the new schedule, spent fuel removal will start in fiscal 2019, while the melted fuel operations will begin in fiscal 2025, according to the sources.
A recruiting drove from the Asahi Shimbun:
Anti-nuclear protesters try to fire up corporate workers in Tokyo
Men and women in business attire thronged the Shinbashi district of Tokyo on Oct. 29 to encourage fellow office workers to protest against moves to restart the Sendai nuclear power plant in southern Japan.
The municipal assembly and the mayor of Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, gave the green light a day earlier to restarting the two-reactor Sendai facility operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co. It is the first plant to win such approval under new safety requirements since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture in 2011.
Michihiko Senda, a 48-year-old company worker in Tokyo who helped organize the rally, said it was aimed at garnering like-minded white-collar workers who he believes should be thinking about the issue.
And to close, more troubles from NHK WORLD:
Completion of spent nuclear fuel plant delayed
A Japanese nuclear fuel company has decided to postpone the completion of a facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to March 2016 due to ongoing rigorous government screening.
It is the 22nd time work has been delayed at the facility in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan. The problem-prone plant has yet to go into operation after more than 20 years of construction work.
The president of Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited, Kenji Kudo, informed Aomori Prefecture Vice Governor Ikuo Sasaki of the latest decision to postpone completion on Thursday.